Just the other day I told you I thought the Chiefs should take a long, hard look at drafting Dan Williams at the #5 spot. I have been thinking about it more and more and I am growing more and more convinced that acquiring Dan Williams is the most important move the Chiefs could make to improve their defense.
Most people consider taking Dan Williams at #5 a drastic reach. They shouldn’t. It is an outdated idea.
Nose tackle in the 3-4 defense is without a doubt the single most important position. A team has no business running the 3-4 without a proper nose.
When you decide to go with 3 lineman instead of 4, you are asking that big fella in the middle to do the job of two men so that your defense has the advantage of having 3 linebackers instead of 4. The linebackers in a 3-4 can see the field better and have a little bit more time to react. The 3-4 also gives the defense the advantage of choosing who the 4th rusher is going to be on any given play. It puts the offense at a disadvantage because they can’t be sure of where that 4th rusher is going to come from.
The Chiefs ran the 3-4 last year without a real nose tackle in Ron Edwards. He plays hard but he isn’t even that good of a 4-3 guard, let alone a 3-4 nose. He had only 26 tackles last year. He also had difficulty eating up blockers.
When the nose tackle fails to eat up blockers, they get to the second level and swallow up the linebackers and safeties who are rushing in to help. If you watched the Chiefs play last year you saw Williams and Mays constantly getting blocked before they could get to the ball carrier, thus springing running backs for huge gains.
Every good NT that might have hit free agency was either franchised or re-signed this offseason. The Patriots opened up the wallet, something they hardly ever do, to pay Vince Wilfork. Teams are switching to the 3-4 so rapidly these days that pretty soon the trendy thing to do will be to switch to the 4-3. The overwhelming number of teams moving to the 3-4 means that quality players that fit the scheme are going to be harder and harder to come by.
In years past, teams could wait until the 2nd or even 3rd round to find their nose tackle because not very many teams were running a 3-4. That is not the case now. It is time for the NFL and draft experts alike, to stop undervaluing the nose tackle as a potential top 10 pick. Without him, the linebackers and safeties can not do their jobs.
Eric Berry, the player many Chiefs fans want the team to go after this year, may not be so high on the draft boards if it was not for his teammate, Dan Williams. The following is from Toolbox.com:
One of the more experienced players in this year’s draft class, Williams has wrapped up an impressive career at Tennessee and is more than ready to take his game to the next level. The defensive tackle redshirted in Knoxville in 2005 and he was basically a full-time starter ever since the beginning of his sophomore campaign in 2007. Although he was often overshadowed on a defense led by star safety Eric Berry, Williams was arguably the glue to the Volunteer defense over the past several years. He recorded 40 tackles and two sacks as a sophomore and as a junior he was third on the team in tackles for loss and second in quarterback hurries, while making 48 total tackles. As a senior, Williams ranked first on the team with nine tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries. He recorded 70 total tackles (36 solo), 2.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery.
In addition to racking up his own stats, Williams wreaks havoc in the middle of the line to open things up for guys like Berry, linebacker Rico McCoy, and defensive end Chris Walker. “His numbers don’t necessarily show it as far as sacks, but he’s been a force in the middle,” said former head coach Lane Kiffin during the 2009 season. Added McCoy: “I wouldn’t have as many tackles without playing behind Dan. Dan’s taking up a block or two every play, because he demands that attention.”
I am not giving Dan Williams all the credit for Eric Berry being Eric Berry. By all accounts, Eric Berry is a special player and could be great. If the Chiefs draft him, I would be absolutely thrilled but I will still be very concerned about the defense if they fail to add a good nose tackle. No matter how good Berry is, he won’t be able to make the defensive line penetrate the backfield and he won’t be able to make plays if he is running into blockers before he can get to the ball carrier.
If it is ok to take a LT to protect your QB in the top 5 then taking the best player at the position that is the entire key to your defensive success should be as well.
There are 3 good prospects in this draft at NT and they are Dan Williams, Terrance Cody and Cam Thomas. I would say there is an almost 100% chance both Williams and Cody will be gone before the 2nd round begins and probably a 85% chance Thomas is gone before the Chiefs use their first 2nd round pick. After Thomas there is a significant drop off in talent at the position.
Romeo Crennel attended Dan’s Pro Day himself and Pioli proved last season when he took Tyson Jackson that he isn’t afraid to take the best player available at a position if he thinks it will help his team. Don’t be surprised if the Chiefs take Williams early. I would rather have the Chiefs “reach” for the best guy at his position than have them roll the dice that they might be able to turn some 4th or 5th round pick into the most important player on their defense.
Berry would be great but the Chiefs can probably get a very good safety in the 2nd round. I can’t say the same for nose tackle. Moreover, a 2nd round safety may even exceed expectations if big Dan Williams is up front wearing Red and Gold, swallowing up blockers, stuffing the run and opening up holes for the defenders.
Think of it like this. Which would you rather have? A great safety playing below his potential because of bad defense in front of him or a good safety playing great because of his teammates in front of him are great as well?
I’ll go with #2 every time.